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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Mugford

 

Capt. John Mugford commanded schooner Franklin in the Continental Navy, serving through 1775 in Manley’s squadron off Boston. He captured British ship Hope with a large cargo of military stores and powder, and took his prize into Boston, running under the noses of the British fleet lying in the outer harbor. Franklin was attacked at night, however, and Capt. Mugford was killed in the ensuing action.

 

II

 

(DD-389: displacement 1,500 tons; length 341 feet 8 inches; beam 34 feet 8 inches; draft 9 feet 10 inches; speed 36.5 knots; complement 200; armament 4 5-inch, 4 .50-caliber, 16 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Gridley)

 

The second Mugford (DD-389) was laid down on 28 October 1935 by the Boston Navy Yard; launched on 31 October 1936; sponsored by Miss Madeline Orne, great-great-grand-niece of Capt. Mugford; and commissioned on 16 August 1937, in command.

 

Joining the Pacific Fleet in late 1937, Mugford conducted local operations along the West Coast and around the Hawaiian Islands, taking time out for periodic overhauls and upkeep. Growing tensions in the Far East led to her shift to Pearl Harbor and she operated with the Pacific Fleet there.  In late 1940 all four of her gun crews won the warship the coveted “E” for a perfect score during short range battle practice.  During this period the destroyer also received an upgrade to her anti-aircraft guns, having one twin 40mm gun mount, six 20mm gun mounts and associated directors installed.

 

On 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began, Mugford lay moored between the gunboat Sacramento (PG-19) and Mugford's sister ship Jarvis (DD-393), at berth B-6, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, and while raising steam to get underway, she claimed three planes shot down in 10 minutes with her .50-caliber machine guns.  Following patrol duties off Hawaii in early December, the destroyer then joined Task Force (TF) 14, built around Saratoga (CV-3), for operations that included the abortive Wake Island relief expedition.  Shifting to TF 11 on 19 January 1942, Mugford screened Lexington (CV-2) during patrol operations until returning to Pearl Harbor on 5 February.  The destroyer departed Hawaii that same day, escorting troop ships south to Brisbane, arriving in that Australian port on the 25th.  After escorting a convoy to Noumea, New Caledonia, on 13 March, Mugford operated as convoy escort and patrol ship in the Tutuila, Tonga, Bora Bora area through May.  Shifting to Australia in early June, Mugford escorted various troop convoys along the Australian coast before sailing for Wellington, New Zealand, on 19 July to prepare for Operation Watchtower, the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal.

 

Sailing north as part of TF 62, Mugford took up a patrol station off Lunga Point on 7 August 1942 to cover the transports unloading troops on Guadalcanal.  Later that morning, a twenty-five plane Japanese air strike swept towards the American warships.  At 1320 that afternoon lookouts spotted a number of twin-engine bombers to the northeast.  Three planes fell burning into the water, victims of American anti-aircraft gunnery, before the rest of the wave passed high overhead.  At 1457, lookouts sighted six Aichi D3A1 Type 99 “Val” carrier bombers approaching from the north.  The destroyer increased speed to 30 knots and began firing all guns as four bombers from the Japanese 2d Kokutai closed to attack Mugford.  In rapid succession, the first bomb struck the water 25 yards abreast the starboard propeller, the second landed 50 yards abreast the number four torpedo tube, the third hit the destroyer just forward the number 3 five-inch gun mount and the fourth missed starboard about 200 yards off the bridge.  Two of the four bombers splashed a few hundred yards to starboard after releasing their bombs.  The bomb hit instantly killed four sailors, mortally wounded three others and blew ten men overboard, four of whom were rescued by Ralph Talbot (DD-390).  Seventeen wounded were later transferred to McCawley (AP-10) for medical care while another seventeen sailors were treated by Mugford’s medical team.  Of the four gun positions knocked out by the blast, three were put back in operation by 1700 that afternoon.  The next day Mugford opened fire on enemy planes during a heavy raid on the anchorage just after noon, mainly firing her five-inch guns at retiring enemy bombers, claiming one.  At 1252 she was ordered to investigate smoke to the west and, at 1320, picked up two Japanese air crew from a splashed Mitsubishi G4M Type 1 “Betty” land attack bomber whom she later delivered to Barnett (AP-11).  Interestingly, one of the wounded Japanese, Tamaki Amano, who survived the war in captivity in Australia, later contacted Capt. Andrew F. Johnston, who had been gunnery officer on Mugford during the war, to thank the ships’ officers and crew for their mercy.

 

On 9 August 1942, Mugford steamed toward the action of the first Battle of Savo Island, arriving at dawn and commenced rescuing men from the water at 0613.  Although interrupted by a submarine contact, the destroyer continued pulling men from the water until 0905 when, with 375 survivors onboard, she steamed for the transport area.  Before arriving off Guadalcanal, fifteen of the wounded died and were buried at sea with a brief ceremony.  At 1300, Mugford moored alongside Barnett and transferred all the survivors, including Capt. Frederick L. Riefkohl, Commanding Officer of Vincennes (CA-44).  After retiring to Noumea on 14 August 1942, Mugford sailed south to Australia, arriving in Sydney on the 27th.  Entering Australian Navy drydock Cockatoo, the destroyer received a week of bomb damage repairs before proceeding to Brisbane.

 

Attached to Task Force (TF) 44, Mugford spent the next three months patrolling the Coral Sea with a cruiser-destroyer force built around Australia, Hobart and Phoenix.  Starting in January 1943, Mugford also began escorting cargo ships and transports from Brisbane, Palm Island and Dunk Island to Port Moresby, New Guinea.  In between convoy operations the destroyer continued surface combat exercises with elements of TF 44.  On 15 May, four hours after departing Brisbane as escort for SS Sussex, Mugford spotted an object on the horizon to the east.  Shortly thereafter a patrol plane flew near, signaling “Rescue survivors in water ahead.”  Upon closing the first group of rafts, survivors told the crew their ship, Australian Hospital Ship Centaur, had been torpedoed and sunk the day before.  Immediately setting to rescue efforts, Mugford’s crew picked up 64 survivors – including one nurse – from a two mile radius of oil slicks, wreckage and debris.  The survivors were given first aid by the destroyers’ medical staff, ably led by Lt. Bruce R. McCambell, then clothed, sparingly fed and put to bed.  The ships’ company also donated over $1,200 for the survivor’s immediate needs, beside donations of clothing, cigarettes, etc.  The survivors were transferred to Australian Army authorities at Newstead that evening.

 

After an escort mission to Noumea and Fiji in May 1943, Mugford returned to Brisbane in June for operations off New Guinea.  On 22 June, Mugford embarked Commander, Allied Naval Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, Vice Admiral Andrew F. Carpender, for transport from Palm Islands to Townsville.  Four days later, the destroyer joined Task Unit (TU) 76.2.1, comprising herself and Helm (DD-388) to escort a column of LSTs to Woodlark Island, where troops and equipment landed on 1 July.  She escorted several more echelon columns of LSTs to Woodlark through the rest of July before shifting to Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 7 August.  The destroyer then carried out shore bombardment missions and patrolled off Milne Bay through August.  On 2 September she joined an escort force at Buna to shepherd LSTs northwest for the invasion of Lae two days later.   The formation was attacked by several “Val” carrier dive bombers but suffered no damage.  Returning to Buna to escort a second echelon of LSTs, the group was attacked again, this time by eight “Betty” land attack bombers, which bracketed Mugford, drenched her with water and peppered the warship with small shrapnel holes.  Following a third convoy to Lae, the destroyer escorted LSTs carrying elements of the Australian 9th division to Finschaven and bombarded the target area on 22 September in preparation for the troop landings.  That evening Mugford had a short night engagement with Japanese landing barges off the port, in which two were sunk by other destroyers.

 

Retiring to Milne Bay and then Townsville in late September 1943, Mugford escorted Dobbin (AD-3) to Milne Bay before mooring alongside the destroyer tender for the installation of a new surface gunnery radar.  On 6 October, Mugford sailed to Buna to recommence escort work, this time mainly between Lae and Finschaven.  On the morning of 20 October, while in company with four other destroyers off Finschaven, multiple waves of dozens of enemy aircraft attacked the warships between 0220 and 0530.  Maneuvering at 25 knots in the early morning darkness, the destroyers avoided direct hits from dozens of bombs though Perkins (DD-377) suffered casualties from shrapnel.  Returning to Buna on the 27th, Mugford went south to Milne Bay for another availability on 9 November.  The destroyer then conducted more escort operations Woodlark Island, Milne Bay, Buna, Lae and Finschaven until early December, when she escorted LSTs for the invasion of Arawe, New Britain, on 14 December.  Returning to Buna, the destroyer then escorted troops for the landings at Cape Gloucester, finding herself patrolling off the reef line on Christmas Day.  At 1430 that afternoon, a number of “Val” carrier dive bombers appeared over the beach and dove to attack, Mugford receiving three near misses, one to port and two to starboard.  A near miss starboard killed one sailor and wounded six others, mostly from the 20mm gun positions amidships.  The hull and superstructure were also riddled with 108 shrapnel holes; according to one witness, after the engineers plugged them with wooden dowels to prevent splash flooding the side of the ship “looked like a pin cushion.”  While steaming east later on Christmas Day, the formation was attacked again by eight enemy bombers, all of which were shot down by friendly fighter aircraft or ship anti-aircraft fire.  When the attack was over, the ships’ crew could see nine funeral pyre’s burning on the surface of the sea within a radius of 12,000 yards, a sobering site on that holiday.

 

After receiving battle damage repairs alongside Dobbin at Milne Bay in early January 1944, Mugford returned to New Guinea for a week of shore bombardment missions off Saidor and Gali.  Following those strikes, and 10 days of leave and recreation at Sydney mid-month, the warship conducted patrol and escort duties in Huon Gulf into February.  Then, in company with Helm, the warship sailed to Tulagi, Solomon Islands, to escort three merchant ships east towards home.  Mugford arrived at Pearl Harbor on 24 February and then proceeded on to California, arriving at Mare Island on 5 March.  Following an eight week refit, the warship quickly underwent refresher training exercises in preparation for the invasion of the Marianas Islands, for which she staged to Pearl Harbor and then Majuro, Marshall Islands, in early June.  Underway 6 June, Mugford sreened the fast carriers during the initial landings, observing the first strike the morning of 11 June, then guarded battleships bombarding Saipan and Tinian, firing night harassing missions herself and covering night retirements by the heavier warships.  On the 17th she rejoined the carrier screen as word came of the approach of an enemy carrier force, and helped cover Iowa (BB-61) and New Jersey (BB-62) during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Returning to the Marianas on the 21st, Mugford spent the next two weeks conducting anti-submarine patrols, fire support missions, night illumination firing and radar picket duties.  On 8 July the destroyers’ crew attempted to capture two Japanese soldiers on a raft near Tanapag Harbor but, as put by the war diary, “both soldiers resisted capture however, and to eliminate any possibility of treacherous action, they were dispatched by submachine gun fire” from Mugford’s whaleboat.  She continued patrol and escort missions in the Marianas and Marshalls as preparations were made to invade Guam, during which action Mugford served as radar picket between Guam and Rota.

 

On 28 August 1944, Mugford sortied from Eniwetok with TF 38 for surface bombardment and airstrikes on enemy shipping and installations in the Bonin Islands and at Yap in the Carolines.  While the destroyer screened carriers during the first action, she participated in the bombardment of Yap on 7 September, firing 132 5-inch rounds in and around Yap town.  She operated with other destroyers of DesDiv 12 in the Carolines through the end of the month, taking time out mid-month for a replenishment stop in Seeadler Harbor, Manus, Admiralty Islands.  On 3 October the weather began to make up, and although Mugford began typhoon evasion maneuvers, she rolled heavily in the pounding storm, losing her anchor, suffering bent forecastle stanchions aft and having the No. 1 gun shield stove in.  After rendezvous on the 7th, the warships sailed north for strikes against Okinawa and Formosa.  During these air operations, Mugford remained almost constantly at general quarters, with Japanese planes launching small, intermittent strikes day and night.  Although numerous, the attacks were uncoordinated and friendly Combat Air Patrol (CAP) kept almost all enemy planes away from the ships and aircraft carriers of the task force.  On 24 and 25 October, Mugford screened carriers and battleships in TG 38.2 and 38.3 during the Battle for Leyte Gulf, with the destroyer rescuing a pilot the morning of the 25th after his crippled fighter ditched at sea.  After refueling with TG 38.4 on the 26th, Mugford screened carriers during strike operations against Japanese troops on Leyte for the next four days.  About noon on 30 October, the crew witnessed kamikaze planes crash Franklin (CV-13) and Belleau Wood (CV-24), after which the destroyer tried to go alongside Belleau Wood to put water on the stricken carriers’ flight deck but heavy winds and rough seas moved her off.  She retired with the damaged carrier to Ulithi on 2 November, having been continuously underway in combat conditions for thirty-nine days.

 

Mugford remained at Ulithi for twelve days, receiving sonar and bilge keel repairs as well as cleaning ship.  She returned to Leyte Gulf on 16 November 1944 and took up a picket patrol station in Surigao Strait.  Although the crew occasionally spotted enemy snoopers, no Japanese planes attacked the lone destroyer.  On 25 November the destroyer rescued Able Seaman James Hunt, an Australian sailor who’d fallen overboard from HMAS Warramunga.  On 5 December, while covering a convoy passing her station, a group of eight Japanese kamikaze planes attacked the slow amphibious craft.  Mugford fired unsuccessfully at the bombers, three of which crashed and damaged LST-23, LSM-20 and Drayton (DD-366).  Later that afternoon, as Mugford escorted the damaged ships to San Pedro Bay, four more carrier torpedo bombers closed to attack.  One dropped a bomb wide on the starboard side, passed over the ship and was lost to sight over land.  Shortly thereafter the “Val” returned in a weaving low-level run.  With suicidal bravery, the Japanese pilot avoiding some 60 rounds of 5-inch fire and dove his bomber straight into Mugford’s port uptakes, wiping out a 20mm gun mount, gutting No. 1 fireroom and the machine shop and knocking out all power.  Taken under tow by LST-34, damage control teams put out the fires, tended to the injured and restored power three hours later.  Casualties were heavy; eight men killed, including one under-age boy found suffocated in the fireroom, and fourteen wounded.

 

Owing to the severe damage, Mugford anchored in San Pedro Bay for minor repairs and then proceeded east to the United States for major yard work, arriving at the Mare Island Navy Yard via Manus and Pearl Harbor on 5 January 1945.  Following yard repairs the destroyer proceeded to San Diego for refresher training on 4 March, before proceeding to Hawaii, arriving in Pearl Harbor on the 19th.  She remained there for five weeks, screening carriers during workups and conducting numerous gunnery exercises.  Mugford, in company with Monterey (CVL-26) and MacDonough (DD-351), finally got underway for Ulithi on 26 April, arriving there via Eniwetok on 8 May.  The destroyer reported for duty with the local commander as a radar picket ship and anti-submarine patrol ship that same day.  Following a month of uneventful duty, Mugford got underway for Saipan on 18 June, where she relieved Doneff (DE-49) on anti-submarine barrier patrol.  Persistent trouble with her sonar gear interrupted this mission and eventually, on 13 July, the destroyer began escort duty, shepherding merchant ships between Ulithi, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  Following two cargo runs in July, Mugford joined an Okinawa-bound convoy at Ulithi on 8 August.  After arriving four days later, Mugford anchored in Buckner Bay to wait the formation of a return convoy.  While there, the crew witnessed the Japanese air attack on the anchorage that torpedoed and damaged battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38).  Underway the following morning as part of a return convoy, Mugford was at sea when word of the Japanese surrender reached the ship by radio.

 

Mugford continued escorting convoys in the western Pacific through August.  She joined TG 55.7 on 4 September 1945, embarked Army recovery teams, and then sailed from Okinawa to Nagasaki, Japan, to help repatriate Allied prisoners of war.  The Army teams debarked on 11 September and quickly moved inland to organize the transfer of Allied personnel from camps around Fukuoka.  The destroyer remained at anchor off Nagasaki until 18 September, before escorting Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) to Okinawa.  Returning to Sasebo, Japan, on 24 September, Mugford continued operations in Japanese waters for another month before turning for home, arriving in San Diego via Pearl Harbor on 19 November.

 

Tapped for participation in future “experimental tests,” was stripped of gear and placed in an inactive status.  Towed to Bikini Atoll in May 1946, Mugford was anchored in the lagoon as a target ship for Operation crossroads, a two-detonation atmospheric nuclear test series that took place on 1 and 25 July 1946.  While not severely damaged by either test, Mugford was selected for long-term study in connection with radiological decontamination procedures.  The destroyer decommissioned on 29 August 1946 and was later retained at Kwajalein Atoll for experiments until finally scuttled at sea on 25 March 1948.

 

Mugford received seven battle stars for World War II service.

 


15 July 2008